I have just completed my first-six at Central Chambers and I know that many of you reading this will be about to embark upon your own first-six. I thought I would share my top tips in the hope that they steady your nerves for the months ahead.
The most important and useful tool which helped me throughout my first-six was making cribs sheets for all types of hearings. Whatever area of law your pupillage is in, you will be required to shadow and observe various hearings and conferences. It is essential to create ‘crib sheets’ on these hearings, whether they be directions, issues resolution hearings, final hearings/trials, so that when you come to do them yourself, they act as a kind of ‘instruction manual’. You can always note down on these crib sheets useful phrases which you have picked up throughout the hearings. These sheets will act as a comfort for when you’re up on your feet, so it is important to start them as soon as possible so that you can put as much detail on them as you can.
It’s obvious and sounds silly, but I cannot stress this enough. Even if you think your question is ridiculous and clear, ask it anyway – it’s better to ask and know for sure than not to ask and be uncertain. You’ll find that usually it’s the practical things that you need clarifying rather than specific legal matters, such as how to fill out a legal aid form and where to send Court Orders.
Again, it sounds obvious, but making a detailed note of everything that happens at hearings and conferences, and your prep work, will be essential. Of course, each case is different, however there will be many overlaps of issues arising in many instances, therefore it is always good to see what advice was given in a similar situation and the reasons for this.
Your second six will come around faster than you can imagine, therefore from the very beginning of your first six you should get in the habit of preparing each case as if you were conducting it. This means you should carrying out all the necessary research, reading and prepare the advice you would give to the client. If you start this early, you can develop and adapt your technique before starting your second six, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time when preparing your first cases.
Much easier said than done, I know, but don’t panic. Your first six is about you learning and developing your skills, not being a barrister from the get go, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how certain hearings work, or if you’re not completely familiar with how some legal principles apply in practice; you’re there to learn. Make sure you give yourself a break and enjoy some time off, you don’t want to be over tired before getting up on your feet!
Of course, if it all gets too much, you can try an alternative career like this solicitor.
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